You’re at the park pushing your baby on the swing. The mom next to you with a baby who looks similar in age smiles. You smile back. She asks your child’s age. She mentions her son is just a few weeks older than your daughter. A familiar conversation ensues in which you bounce back and forth between bottles, naps, separation anxiety – all of the usual suspects. Then the question pops up that never fails: “What classes is she enrolled in?”
When we were in our teens it was “Where do you go to school?”, our 20’s was “What bar did you go to last night?” and for parents it is “Where does your baby take classes?” or “Where does your child go to preschool?”. As a maternity consultant, I get asked this question a lot. People want advice on the best facilities. Some moms believe classes are the gateway to Harvard. Others choose to opt out of them all together and find free, fun city activities. I see both sides. As a working mom away from her children eight hours a day, I wanted them to have a consistent routine of activity. Although I felt classes were important, I aimed for quality over quantity.
Classes are a great way to not only provide social interaction for your child, but for you as well! Being home with a baby/toddler all day can be isolating. Classes provide a structured schedule in the week and get you out of the house. Mommy-and-me classes give you focused one-on-one time with your child without the everyday distractions. In addition, classes foster muscle coordination, music and art appreciation and social development. While I do not feel it is necessary to have your child’s schedule jam-packed with multiple daily activities, I do value providing a few diverse options for older babies and toddlers as well as a preschool or preschool alternative for two & three-year olds. There is a myriad of options for classes across the city. Here are some tips for choosing them:
1. Research the classes in your neighborhood. Use word of mouth first for what your mom friends prefer and then narrow it down by proximity to your home, budget, and schedule.
2. Request a free trial. If you are going to invest over $500 for a semester of classes, make sure you know what you are getting. Try a few out to see what feels right.
3. Choose a class that will not interfere with your child’s nap schedule. For a toddler with two naps, try one in the late morning between the naps. For an older child with one lunchtime nap, aim for morning or late afternoon. For the over-three set, try a preschool program earlier in the day so they are energized.
4. If you are looking for a healthy balance, choosing one gym class and one music class per week is a good start. These build different skills and won’t become too redundant. Some facilities offer longer classes that combine both physical skill-building and art, which is a great way to break it up.
5. Get involved. The best thing about classes is sharing the experience with your baby/child. Play with the instruments, sing the songs, be silly. Before you know it, they will be attending classes or school without you and you will miss it!
6. Don’t always feel you have to keep up with the Joneses. Your child is not going to be the next Bill Gates because you enrolled them in classes while they were still in the womb. Do what makes the most sense for your family – not just what others tell you to do.
Kidz Central Station is your go-to resource for NYC classes. They make this process a whole lot easier and seamlessly guide you to the perfect class for your child. Here are some other recommendations from a NYC mom of two:
1. NY Kids Club – at 18 months, my son loved their combo class of music, art and gym
2. Playtime with Sammie & Tudie – known as “the power couple of the clowning world”, Sammie & Tudie host classes/events all over the city, featuring magic, storytelling, songs, and activity play for ages 1-4 and their prices can’t be beat. Both my children adore them.
3. Yogi Beans – around 18 months, my son took “Me & My Bean Yoga” at this adorable Upper East Side studio and came home proudly demonstrating downward dog and namaste.
4. The Art Farm in the City – for my son’s first separation program, we chose The Art Farm on the Upper East Side. He thoroughly enjoyed spending two three-hour days there a week with their warm staff, diverse curriculum, and who can turn down playing with farm animals in the city? Their classes and playgroups are excellent as well.
Lauren Deneroff is the founder of Wife to Mom Consulting (www.wifetomomconsulting.com), a maternity consulting and baby planning firm in New York City. Wife to Mom Consulting offers services to expectant and new moms such as new parent coaching, registry guidance, nursery design and preparation, baby gear education, and organizational services. Lauren lives in Manhattan with her husband, Joe, and their two children, Brody, 3 & Harper, 1 and is happy to share her consulting and mommy advice on Kidz Buzz!